Facebook Making People More Empathetic

Facebook Making People More Empathetic

Several studies have shown that online communication has facilitated friendships, honesty and sense of belonging.  New research is showing that Facebook time may actually improve people’s empathy as well. The Wall Street Journal reported that, “The more time on Facebook subjects in a recent study spent, the more empathy they said they felt online and off.”

This information may come as a surprise with the number of reported cyber bullying cases. Internet Solutions for Kids reported that 17% of 13- to 18-year-olds were bullied online in the past year. However, this is low compared to the reported 40% in-person bullying.   

Fear of dealing with social settings has led many to online platforms like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. Some newer studies have shown that this form of online communication can be helpful for those who are shy or introverted and who may normally find social settings stressful.  The WSJ article noted, “In a study of New York University students who described themselves as either socially anxious or non-anxious, participants were randomly assigned to interact in groups of three, either in-person or through an Internet chat room.  Anxious students reported greatest shyness and discomfort than non-anxious students in face-to-face groups.  In the chat room, however, they said they felt significantly less shy, more comfortable and better accepted by their peers.”

The American Psychological Association (APA) reported some results at a Washington, DC conference this year from 1,283 people aged 18-30.  This group was asked about their time spent online and its impact on how much empathy they felt toward their online and offline friends.  The participants reported “a significant amount of empathy online, and that the more time college students spent on Facebook, the more empathy they expressed online and in real life.”

Generation of Haters Hiding Behind Social Media Anonymity

We’ve all seen the areas on Youtube, blogs, and other news areas where people make their anonymous comments about the topic at hand.  It has become very easy for people to make comments that they might not otherwise have made should they have had to have their name or face associated with their remarks.  Many comments are made by children under 18 and some of those comments may be just dismissed as immature.  However, as more news stories surface about children killing themselves from cyber-bullying, there is growing concern about society accepting this kind of behavior.  (For 11 facts about cyber-bullying click here). Cyberbullyingprotection.net reported that 75% of students have visited websites that bashed other students.

Many blogs, including this one, allow screening of posts before allowing them to be exposed.  This is useful to avoid the deluge of spam that comes across from people trying to sell their unsolicited products.  However, it can be reassuring to know that “haters” can’t just post anything they want.

Why are there so many angry people out there that want to write negative comments?  Part of the issue that these people have, other than immaturity, is a lack of emotional intelligence (EI).  Emotional intelligence may be defined in many ways.  One of the easiest ways to think about it is to define emotional intelligence as the ability to understand one’s own emotions as well as those in others.  People who write these posts have little consideration of the feeling of others.  This shows a lack of interpersonal skills.

It brings forth a question as to whether any specific demographic has more issues with emotional intelligence than others.  Rueven Bar-On, creator of the EQ-i emotional intelligence test, found that his model, “reveals that older people are more emotionally and socially intelligent than younger people, females are more aware of emotions than males while the latter are more adept at managing emotions than the former, and that there are no significant differences in emotional-social intelligence between the various ethnic groups that have been examined in North America.”

The good news is that emotional intelligence can be improved. Authors like Marcia Hughes and others have written several helpful books about how to increase levels of EI.  Author and psychiatrist John Gottman discussed helping our children’s emotional development in his book, Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child.  Some of the things Gottman suggests are to:

  • Listen to our children with empathy.
  • Help your children name their feelings.
  • Validate your child’s emotions.
  • Turn their tantrums into teaching tools.
  • Use conflicts to teach problem-solving.
  • Set an example by remaining calm.

By helping our children develop emotional intelligence, perhaps we can see a future of less “haters” and cyber-bullies making anonymous hurtful comments.

 

 

Facebook Depression: Report of How Social Networking Can Affect Our Youth

 

A report released today (March 28, 2011) by the American Academy of Pediatrics has come up with a syndrome they call Facebook Depression.  This report is titled:  Clinical Report—the Impact of Social Media on  Children, Adolescents, and Families.  Although Facebook allows people to remain in contact with friends and develop relationships, there can also be a downside.  MyHealthNewsDaily reported, “heavy use of Facebook, as well as other risks of the online world such as cyber bullying and sexting, can have serious consequences, so it’s critical for parents to stay involved in their children’s lives.”

This is not the first time social media has and its impact on young adults has been studied.  Livescience explained, “A big chunk of kids’ social development now takes place in the online world, according to the report. A study released in February 2010 found that 70 percent of wired American teens and young adults use social networking sites. A 2009 poll conducted by Common Sense Media found that more than half of teens use a social networking site more than once a day.”

The good is that there are some “benefits of children and adolescents using social media including:

  • Opportunities for community engagement through raising money for charity and volunteering for local events, including political and philanthropic events
  • Enhancement of individual and collective creativity through development and sharing of artistic and musical endeavors
  • Growth of ideas from the creation of blogs, podcasts, videos, and gaming sites
  • Expansion of one’s online connections through shared interests to include others from more diverse backgrounds (such communication is an important step for all adolescents and affords the opportunity for respect, tolerance, and increased discourse about personal and global issues)
  • Fostering of one’s individual identity and unique social skills–Enhanced Learning Opportunities”

For the complete report click here.

  • Adolescents at risk for ‘Facebook depression,’ study warns (theglobeandmail.com)
  • Docs warn about Facebook use and teen depression (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
  • Social Networking May Affect Kids’ Health (webmd.com)